Schizophrenia (SZ) is a severe mental disorder characterized by multiple neurodevelopmental dysfunctions including a breakdown of thinking process and a deficit of typical emotional responses. Ataxin-2 (ATXN2) plays vital roles in cell proliferation and growth, and functional mutations of ATXN2 cause neurodegenerative phenotypes, including spinocerebellar ataxia type 2 (SCA2) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). To explore the possible role of ATXN2 in SZ, we conducted a two-stage study to examine the association of ATXN2 polymorphisms with SZ in the Han Chinese population. Association analysis of seven SNPs in 768 patients and 1348 controls revealed two associated SNPs, including rs630511 (P= 1.76E-4) and rs7969300 (P= 5.08E-4). We examined these two SNPs in a validation sample of 1957 patients and 1509 controls, and observed an association of rs7969300 with SZ (P= 5.03E-3). The SNP rs7969300 is a non-synonymous SNP causing a Ser to Asn substitution, which is predicted to increase the protein stability of ATXN2. Our data suggest that the ATXN2 gene may confer vulnerability for SZ, adding further evidence for the genetic variants within the developmental pathway in the illness.
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